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Pinellas Park will give out the water-conserving devices starting April 16.
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001
PINELLAS PARK -- The water department will make residents an offer that officials hope will be hard to refuse -- a free shower head that pulses and massages and saves both water and money.
"Because of the water shortage in the Tampa Bay area, the city is mandated by SWIFTMUD to reduce its annual water consumption by 5 percent," said Keith Sabiel, the city's director of water and reclaimed water. "The only way we can do this is to help residents cut their water usage."
Beginning April 16, residents can pick up their free shower head at the utility billing division in City Hall or at the public works department. All residents have to do is trade in their old shower heads.
The exchange program is funded by a $4,000 SWIFTMUD grant. Up to two shower heads are permitted per household. The city is limited to 2,500 shower heads this year.
"It's really simple to install. You just unscrew your old one and screw the new one in," said Marty Reich, a water department foreman.
Older residents can get help with the installation from the city's People Helping People program, Sabiel said.
Reich and several other water department employees tested several shower heads before the city selected the "Spoiler," manufactured by the AM Conservation Group Inc. specifically for government water conservation programs.
"We wanted to make sure that the shower head would get all the shampoo out when you washed your hair," Sabiel said.
"It's great and my wife loves it," Reich said. "The pressure is the same and you can't tell that you are getting less water. My old shower head was like a pistol. It would knock you down," said the water department foreman, who compared the consumption rates on his water meter.
A reduced-flow shower head can save 30 or more gallons in a 10-minute shower, according to federal estimates. Reich thinks the new shower head will save more than 200 gallons each day in his home alone. "We take longer showers," he said.
The new shower head limits water consumption to 2.5 gallons per minute, compared with the 6 or 7 gallons per minute often produced by older shower heads.
Water usage by participating residents will be monitored during the coming year. If a significant difference in consumption is confirmed, the city hopes to expand the program next year. The city might even offer residents low-flow toilets, Sabiel said.
In Pinellas Park, more than 20,000 households use over 5-million gallons of water each day. Sabiel acknowledged that the 2,500 shower heads will make a small difference in the city's water use. But he hopes other residents will voluntarily replace old shower heads and other water fixtures with commercially available low-flow models.